The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has launched legal proceedings against a building surveyor who owes more than $38,000 in unpaid building permit levies. This action comes after the building surveyor failed to pass on to the VBA the levies from building permits issued in 2013.

Under the Building Act 1993 (the Act), building surveyors must provide the VBA each month with a report of the building permits they have issued, and forward the levy payments for the permits.

The VBA’s Compliance and Performance Acting Director, Murray Smith, said the building surveyor has been referred to the Building Practitioners Board for an inquiry into his conduct as a result of non-compliance with the Act and Building Regulations 2006 (the Regulations).

According to Mr Smith, building surveyors have a number of responsibilities under the Regulations and most building surveyors take their obligations seriously. However, VBA takes action against those that fail to meet their legal obligations. 

Building permit levies fund the building control system in Victoria. Under the Act, anyone applying for a building permit for works costing more than $10,000 must pay a levy before the permit is issued. This levy is collected by the building surveyor, who then forwards it to the VBA each month.

The VBA has a sophisticated program in place to monitor and audit building surveyors’ compliance with their reporting and levy return obligations. The aim of the program is to ensure that levies associated with building permits are forwarded to the VBA and that building surveyors report their building permits to the VBA each month.

Mr Smith observes that the ongoing audit of building permit levy reporting and returns has seen a significant improvement in the level of compliance among building surveyors.

The VBA’s monitoring and auditing activities do reveal instances of intentional wrongdoing, where VBA steps in to ensure appropriate action is taken to recover unpaid money, with the matter also referred for investigation and possible disciplinary action.

In the first half of VBA’s 2013-14 audit program, 29 audits were conducted, with more than 200 unreported permits and $100,000 in unreported levies identified.

The VBA’s Chief Executive Officer, Prue Digby said the audit program is now focusing largely on building permits associated with larger commercial and residential building projects, which are issued for a partial stage of building work. In the 2012-13 financial year, more than 7200 stage building permits were issued, at an average value of $1.2 million for each permit.

Ms Digby notes that stage building permits represent an area of high risk for building surveyors, given that building surveyors have no standard industry practice of reporting stage building permits.

In addition to the reporting and levy audit program, the VBA will be implementing another audit program to monitor the building permit process from beginning to end.